Women in agriculture


Over the last 50 years, intensively and revolutionarily, Brazil has gone from being an importer to one of the biggest producer and exporter of food to the world. The agricultural sector plays an active role in Brazil’s economic dynamics, accounting for more than 20% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), half of exports, and the country’s positive trade balance. Even with weather uncertainties, logistical infrastructure problems, and the need for good financial management of the business, the scenario for agricultural production remains optimistic.

The Role Of Women

Historically, women’s participation in this sector was considered complementary, since working in the field was linked to physical effort. However, with the intensification of production in recente years, as a result of significant technological developments and the professionalization of rural activities in an increasingly digital scenario, work in the field started demand other qualities, such as a managerial vision that is innovative, humanized, versatile, and that values communication.

In this way, women have overcome differences, advanced positions, and found parallel spaces to work, also driven by their determining characteristic of constantly seeking qualifications and technical knowledge.

In 2017, the latest Brazilian Agricultural Census showed that among the 5 million rural properties in the country, around 1 million, or almost 20%, are managed exclusively by women. This number is expected to grow in various rural activities, like crops, forestry products, horticulture, flower farming and aquaculture.

At the same time, according to the Census data, almost 30% of the labor market in activities associated with agribusiness is occupied by women, mainly in the agroindustry and agroservices segments.

This number goes hand in hand with the growing level of education among female workers, the greater degree of formalization of employment, and the good level of job satisfaction in agribusiness.

Ensuring Higher Female Participation

UN Women, a program created in 2010 to unite, strengthen, and expand global efforts in defense of women’s human rights and promote gender equality in all activities is a guarantee for effectively strengthening economies, boosting business, improving quality of life, and sustainable development. Therefore, the participation of women is necessary to achieve the prosperous future we are aiming for Brazilian agriculture.

Along these lines, there is also another challenge, which is to increase female participation in seats in agribusiness entities and associations. As well as encouraging women to occupy leadership and decision- making positions within the farmgates, they are also being called upon to act as an active voice in class representative positions

Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock

Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA) represents, organizes, and strengthens Brazilian rural producers, defends their rights and interests, and promotes the economic and social development of the sector by participating in discussions and decisions on national agricultural policy.

With this scenario in mind, the National Committee for Women in Agriculture from the CNA System was launched in 2023, one of the entity’s 19 technical committees formed to discuss issues of the sector, with the goal to increase women’s participation and develop female leaderships inside and outside the farmgate, encouraging, preparing, and valuing women’s work in this sector, which is so significant for Brazil.

With this clear goal and a transversal approach, the Committee is made up of representatives appointed from each region of the country and acts along three lines: support for the formation of State groups aimed to broaden the national goal; leadership development, through training; and political and institutional articulation and representation, which seeks to guarantee na influential position for rural women on the political scene, on agendas related to the segment.

Supporting Brazilian Entrepreneurs

Another initiative of the CNA System designed for women, in partnership with the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Agência Brasileira de Promoção de Exportações e Investimentos) (Apex-Brasil), is the AgroBR Mulheres, which supports small and medium-sized Brazilian rural entrepreneurs who want to export their products through a monitored Journey of technical knowledge to develop skills and competencies and generate business and through international rounds and missions, driven by the exchange of experiences and the formation of a support network.

It is important to highlight the internal and external challenges facing women’s work, such as balancing a professional career with motherhood and caring for the family, as well as questions about the intellectual capacity of the gender and wage inequality, although within Brazilian agribusiness this indicator is lower than in the rest of the economy.

Over the last few years, various women’s movements have been essential to the social and cultural transformation that we can see today, which has motivated, expanded, and highlighted the importance of women’s participation in various segments.

Added to this are youth movements, which also result in Family succession in the business and an increase in the indicators for staying in rural areas. New horizons are opening up for women and the promotion of policies and processes to encourage and include women in rural areas represents a new chapter being written in the history of Brazilian agribusiness

Article by Stéphanie Ferreira Chairperson of the National Committee for Women in Agriculture of CNA – Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil Originally published in the Indian magazine Agriculture World.